Day 29- 4.19.15
Hiked 12.8mi today (230.6-243.4). This day was a wet mess, woke up to rain and fell asleep to rain. There were breaks, but it was a rough one for sure.
The last shelter in the Smokies had a fenced cage to keep bears away. I heard they took many of these fenced cages off the shelters, because people were feeding black bears through the fence, go figure! Speaking of bears, I did not see one single black bear in the Smokies! This is the most populated area for black bears in the whole US, I was really expecting to see one! I haven’t even seen a deer since the start! Oh well, many more days to go.
Anyways, back to the day, we finally made it out of the Smokies and crossed Interstate 40, our first interstate crossing. It was handy to be able to hang out under the overpass while the rain was coming down. We saw on radar that it was going to clear so we waited 15 minutes there, it was coming down good then. There was a lot of swallows under the overpass, the ones that fly like they are drunk, haha.
We came across this hostel that was very rustic with tree houses and porches with rocking chairs. It was so welcoming, but I had to run away, it wanted my wallet. We went halfway up a steep climb to our campsite that had a big flowing creek to rinse off. We hung out with Forrest and Flowjack for the first time, the most hippie of a couples I’ve probably met. These two not only carry less than 15 pounds, but dance and hula hoop while they hike and they are not slow. They were very nice and let us hang out in their shelter until bedtime. We went to bed to thunderstorms, love that!
Day 30- 4.20.15
Hiked 7.7 miles today (243.4-251.1). This was a really rough morning- not only were we slanted and crammed down one side of the tent, the tent was wet and muddy. I was going to put leaves around the tent to keep dirt flying up from the rain, but that’s what you get for being lazy. Instead of getting on the trail at the normal time, we took our time drying out gear while hanging out with Forrest, Flowjack and Brother Ty. Brother Ty is still being silent until we hit Hot Springs. We learned to do our own sign language with him, and he and Forrest were especially getting the feel of it. Sometimes I just had Ty use my phone to type stuff out if it got complicated, it was interesting for sure. Forrest and Flowjack were using the hula hoops all afternoon. Me and Christy almost went back down the mountain to the hostel for a bluegrass band and barbecue at the hostel, but decided to press on the trail.
It was good to see stealth camping spots again (only being able to camp near or in shelters in the Smokies was getting old). The Smokies were beautiful, but I am so glad it’s over with! We camped at Brown Gap with Arrow- a former thru hiker from 2013, and Snowfox (high buddy from back home). Lots of questions and answers went through that night, learned quite a few things from them.
Day 31- 4.21.15
Hiked 15.8 miles today (251.1-266.9). We were excited to wake up and hike up to Max Patch, which is a cleared mountain top that used to be a cow pasture. You can see the Smokies and other mountains in a 360 degree view. You can see how big the Smokies really are from this point. There was not one cloud in the sky, but we were only up there a few minutes due to the wind.
The rest of the hike was more like a blur to me- I was focused on getting miles done and it was just me and Christy at this point. We hiked as far as possible today towards Hot Springs and camped alone together for the first time in weeks. The silence was kind of weird at first, but we enjoyed it. We were excited to know tomorrow morning we would be in Hot Springs!
Christy: we had to hurry a bit to Hot Springs because we were running out of food. We had developed a bad habit of eating food/snacks that were supposed to be eaten on a future day. Seems like a good idea until that future day comes and doesn’t include snacks!
Day 32- 4.22.15
Earth Day! Hiked from 266.9 to 274.4 (7.5miles into Hot Springs). Anytime you think the terrain looks easy in the guide book, it’s not and anytime you think it’s all downhill, there’s so crazy uphill parts that sneak in. Anyways… Made it to Hot Springs around lunchtime. My new pack was supposed to be sent to the hostel that is right there as you get to town. After going through all of the packages, mine wasn’t there! A few freaked out minutes later, I was able to get on wifi and check email to figure out that the package was delivered to the post office. Phew!
The AT is the sidewalk on the main road through town, which was pretty cool. You can’t not go through Hot Springs! We got a room at Elmer’s Sunnybank Inn. On paper, it sounded like a hostel, but it was more like a bed and breakfast. We actually called them to confirm that the giant Victorian house was really where we were supposed to go. House was built in the 1870s and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The owner of the inn, Elmer Hall was a former thru hiker in 1975 and 1976 and has been running the Sunnybank Inn for 3 decades now. He cooks the breakfast, but he cooks as he goes with no planning involved. The place was so welcoming and had so much history in every room with antiques, old maps, and instruments. The place started as a hostel in 1947 and housed the famous Earl Shaffer in 1948, who is the first recorded person to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. He had to machete his way through the trail at times and had to go through a lot of hassle to prove he actually did it. He ended up hiking the trail 3 times, staying at the Sunnybank Inn again in 1988 for his 50th anniversary. Earl Shaffer was 79 years old on his last trip and the room he stayed in those two times is marked. This house was beyond gorgeous!
In town, we ran into a lot of people from our group. We did our resupply at all 3 of the places that you could grocery shop at. Started at the outfitter at the recommendation of Baltimore Jack, then to Dollar General and the Hillbilly Market. Hot springs ended up being a pretty expensive place to resupply.
We were walking to get dinner at the Mexican restaurant, and in the 4 blocks from the inn to the restaurant (pretty much all of town) we expanded from 4 of us for dinner to 12 of us.
After dinner, we went to the White House (a house under renovation that some of our friends were staying at, doing work for stay). Since it was raining, we used one of the upstairs bedrooms to seam seal the new tent. We hung out for awhile, then headed back to the inn.
Day 33- 4.23.15
Zero day in Hot Springs, NC. We woke up in the inn wishing we made reservations for breakfast, but we were too late the night before once we were committed. We ended up getting marvelous subs at Hillbilly Market.
Contrary to belief on the trail, getting to a town doesn’t necessarily mean you get cell service. The only places in town with wifi are the library and the hiker ministry. We spent a majority of the day there updating the blog and Jimi uploaded his GIS data to Guthook. We’d been wishy-washy about hiking out vs taking a zero day in town, but ended up staying. A bunch of adults playing wiffle ball on a bright, sunny day at the white house will do that to you! We picked teams and had 14 people playing.
After playing wiffle ball, we ended staying at the White House or Hotel California. It was crazy having this big house and yard to ourselves as long as we did some easy chores that the contractor asked for. He just drove up with instructions and left the place to us! Jimi had to do first aid for a hiker named Boombox (couldn’t have gotten a better name) that busted his shin on a metal corner of a trailer pretty good. Thanks to his mom being a nurse, he had the proper bandage for him, everyone else just had band-aids. We ended up having a fire in the backyard once the sun went down and about a dozen hikers slept on the property that night.